10 to 1 odds

Even if you are not a college basketball follower (like me) it’s hard to ignore March Madness. This year, unless you have a “dog in the fight” it’s hard to not cheer for Loyola. Yes, I’m one of those people that if I don’t really care for a specific team—I root for the underdog—so go Ramblers!

What is fascinating to me is the “odds” that are placed on teams. I’m not a gambler (not that I have anything against those who choose to responsibly gamble) but I stink at it and choose to use the money I have for other things. But this idea of “odds” is curious to me—how, and more importantly who decides this ratio? I am sure there are mathematical and statistical formulas, but I also think it is based on opinion, perspective, and bias. That is just is not enough foundation for me.

One of the most interesting discussions I have with people concerning their faith is about obedience—there is a sense that if “I try to keep the 10 Commandments” that is good enough. Well I challenge any of us to honestly say we follow the 10 Commandments…here is a reminder of what they are (with a Cliff Note explanation taken from a children’s Bible study):

1. You shall have no other gods before Me. (Put God first)
2. You shall not make idols. (Worship God only)
3. You shall not take the name of the LORD your God in vain. (Use God’s name with respect)
4. Remember the Sabbath day, to keep it holy. (Honor God’s creation)
5. Honor your father and your mother. (Respect your parents)
6. You shall not murder. (Do not harm others)
7. You shall not commit adultery. (Be faithful in marriage, even in your thoughts)
8. You shall not steal. (Do not take things that are not yours)
9. You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor. (Do not lie or gossip)
10. You shall not covet. (Do not be envious of others)

If this were a quiz how did you do? How many of the 10 do you keep 100% of the time? Remember, these are God’s Commandments, not His suggestions. Well my score is not something to brag about so based on this test my odds of being pleasing to God are not very good.

But here is the good news—we do not have to bet on the 10 odds; the 1 odd guarantee is freely available to everyone. That odd came on the Cross of Jesus Christ. Acts 2:21 states it very clearly, “And everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.”

Tomorrow is Easter or Resurrection Sunday. I hope you enjoy time with family and other loved ones—that is important. I pray that you will reflect on your relationship with God to see if you are working to fulfill the 10 odds by being a good person, trusting and calling on Jesus for the 1 true odd and being an heir to the throne, or just going about your own way.

 

Snow Day!!!

Students pray for them…teachers welcome them…parents dread them. I work at an elementary school and the news came out that Easter break will be cut short by a day. I heard kids complaining, saw teachers frowning, and observed some parents giving high-fives. Now, whether they know it or not, this decision was made for their benefit—by forgoing a day off in April to make up a snow day, they will not have to return to school after Memorial Day weekend. When they heard the news, they lived in the moment, just as when the snow day was declared, they lived in the moment.

Thinking about what I observed I naturally thought God would reveal to me something along the lines of “watch out what you ask for” or “enjoy now but wait until you pay for it later.” However, I was reminded that none of that is what Jesus tells us in Matthew 6:34, ““So don’t worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will bring its own worries. Today’s trouble is enough for today. “

“Worry” is one of the biggest plagues on people today—it robs us of joy and contentment. When we allow it to infest us, it causes serious Physical, Relational, Emotional, Mental, Intellectual, Spiritual, and yes, even Environmental issues. If you want to see “worry” in action just look into the eyes of someone: a family member, a friend, a coworker, a stranger, or you might just need to look into a mirror.

Let’s look back at those who heard about the original snow day:

  • Parents: They frantically adjusted schedules and tried to find someone to care for their child—understandably if they were still expected to be at work. They also started worrying if tomorrow would be another snow day and what should they do to prepare. Some started worrying about summer vacation. That snow day and who knows how many others to come would change the school year and totally mess up summer plans!
  • Teachers: While possibly relishing the temporary break, they also knew it changed the academic and extra-curricular schedule, so they worried about how they were going to adapt. They too have summer vacation plans, so they took on the same worry as the parents.
  • Students: It’s a snow day!!! They lived joyfully in the moment and did not worry about the next day or summer vacation…it was a snow day!!!

Great! We can go about our merry ways today and not worry about the consequences of tomorrow right? Well I think we see God’s plan for that in Proverbs 6:6-8, “Take a lesson from the ants, you lazybones. Learn from their ways and become wise! Though they have no prince or governor or ruler to make them work, they labor hard all summer, gathering food for the winter.”

I believe the point Jesus is making in Matthew 6:34 is that when we rely on ourselves or even other people, we tend to worry about today and tomorrow. When we rely on God, we still must work and prepare but through faith we know He will provide and therefore, we need not worry.

That’s Squirrely!

My home office is set up intentionally so that I can open the window blinds and look out at a small wooded area when I need to be particularly philosophical, theological, or just day-dream. Depending on the season and neighborhood activities it is interesting to analyze the various behaviors I get to witness. Sometimes it involves people, but often it is the animals that catch my attention.

This week I noticed a squirrel that was acting a bit strange. I know it is the same squirrel because I named him “Earl” (get it, Earl the Squirrel)? Seriously, I am confident it is Earl because of a consistent and repeated pattern. You see Earl starts in a tree across the road, runs down the tree with something in his mouth, jumps straight up, crosses the street, runs up a new tree, comes back to the street without anything in his mouth, jumps straight up, crosses the street, runs up the old tree, and then repeats the process.

I am not an expert on squirrel psychology, but I do know they store their food in trees and in the ground to survive winter. We had a pretty mild winter and spring is on the horizon, so Earl’s behavior made me curious. After a bit of detective work I realized that Earl is retrieving his stored food from a tree that it obviously diseased and rotting and is moving to a place he considers safe. Earl is wise and is preparing for a danger that will destroy his original habitat.

Proverbs 27:12 tells us, “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.” This is excellent advice for all aspects of our lives, but one that I think we often neglect. Most people are pretty good at reacting when the writing is on the wall. When a tornado watch is issued, we prepare our shelter; when a blizzard is approaching we go to the grocery store and get French toast ingredients; when our employer is going under, our resume gets updated; when we have a test tomorrow…we study.

I don’t know about you, but I find myself being reactionary instead of precautionary all too often.   I check the weather radio’s batteries when the tornado warning is issued; I drive to the grocery store in the snow; I cannot find my resume, so I start from scratch; I hope the test is multiple choice so that I have a 25% chance with each question.  It’s not a good plan—Solomon told us and Earl showed me! We must be out front of what the future brings if we are to experience the blessings God has for us. This is not looking for a crystal ball or predicting the future. For me it is being in close relationship with God. Walking and talking daily with Him in the name of Jesus Christ. Through prayer and other means, I know God reveals to me His plans for me.  It is through faith and obedience that I must wait on the Lord for Him to make these plans happen, in His time, through His premise.

While I wait I must make the decision to be prudent or to be a simpleton. Quite honestly, I have been a simpleton far to often and the results are never good. Paul sums it up in Romans 7:15, “I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do.” I resolve to be prudent and to trust and wait in the Lord—I invite you to join me and Earl in this journey.

It’s not the gift…

With great sadness (and some anger) I opened a closet door only to discover termites had infiltrated and done some damage. They got a cardboard box with some important stuff, but most importantly they destroyed three National Geographic magazines. These were not just ordinary magazines but were a reminder of being loved and having someone sacrifice for me.

Several years ago, for my birthday, my daughter set out on a quest to surprise me—I can only imagine the effort she put into this, but I’m pretty sure it was not a day-trip. She gifted me those magazines. They were original Nat Geo’s published throughout the years with the cover story taking place on the date of my birth. Most memorable was the one with Neil Armstrong walking on the Moon.

We have all heard “It is not the gift, but the thought that counts.” Now that sounds like something Jesus would have said…or maybe could be found in Proverbs, right? Wrong. The quote came from a professor of literature at Princeton University, Henry van Dyke, in the early 1900’s. An important thing to understand about Henry was that he was also a theologian and a follower of Jesus Christ. I believe that Professor van Dyke got it right, he got it right according to God’s desire.

To stay true to my journey to find God’s premise for our lives, I had to first get over the material loss of those magazine I cherished—there is a grandson I was going to pass these items to one day. Well, that obviously cannot happen, so what can I pass to him? It’s the thought of the gift—I want to share with him the story of the love, generosity, and selflessness of his mother and I believe that will stay with him longer than a faded magazine.   The material things we give each other are not permanent, but the motive and attitude in which we give to each other lasts a lifetime.

There is, however, one gift in the history of the universe where both the gift and the thought count in a mighty way. Ephesians 2:8-9 explains, “For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” You see, the gift was Jesus Christ suffering and dying on a Cross for you and me—that counts! And the thought was “That God so loved the world that He gave His one and only Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish but have eternal life.”—that counts!

This is a gift that is available for everyone; no strings attached, not subject to destruction, and it is eternal—have you accepted this gift?

The Chair

Recently I had the blessing and joy of assembling an easy chair in the nursery of my Grandson who will make his appearance this summer. While looking at it I couldn’t help but think about the wonderful times he will have with his Mom and Dad in that chair—reading, playing, napping, and just resting after a fun day in the park. I also thought about the tough times that will be spent in that chair—colds, sleepless nights, teething, and just plain bad moods. Despite the circumstance, I know that chair will be a location where this child will bond with his parents and they with him—he will grow to trust them and know that he is loved.

Of course, there will be that day that all parents must deal with when you hear something like “Mom, I’m too old to sit in that chair with you.” Or “Dad, not in front of my friends.” I am 55 years into this journey and would physically crush my dear Mom if I should sit on her lap; I would love to sit in my Dad’s lap just one more time, but he is dancing with angels. But I can go to the lap of my Heavenly Father just by asking!

Revelation 3:21 reminds me of where I long to sit someday, for eternity, “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne, just as I was victorious and sat down with my Father on his throne.” The “I” is Jesus Christ—His victory was on the cross and the empty grave. “To the one” is you and me if we trust Jesus as our personal Lord and Savior and that gives us the “right” to be in the presence of the Father on His throne.

I found handing my life over to Jesus pretty easy; I have found living my life for Jesus pretty challenging. Satan does not like me being obedient to the Lord. He puts roadblocks in my path constantly and unfortunately in my human nature I fall for them. But, I can go to the “chair”, sit on my Father’s lap and overcome anything placed in my path.